Successful summer of reading: literacy promoters reflect on summer reading initiatives

Published 11:00 am Thursday, August 5, 2021

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Get Troup Reading, a local organization dedicated to improving literacy rates throughout the county, continued its efforts to promote reading in the community via several different youth summer camps.

Mirroring the ReadCharlotte’s Infusion Program in Charlotte, North Carolina, which offered communication tools to the YMCA, and learning about successful summer enrichment programs through the Grade Level Reading Campaign and the National Summer Learning Association, GTR developed a plan to implement through existing summer youth programs in Troup County to focus on literacy skills.

Get Troup Reading launched the EXPAND program, which offered books, art supplies, puzzles, board and card games and more to youth in several summer programs throughout the county.

“With COVID, that limited us being able to go out with volunteers,” Get Troup Reading Director Kim said.

“So I thought that is something we can do, [and] we can scale that down. We have so many great summer programs because things were lifted a little bit … we thought, ‘What if we offered our summer programs [these tools]?’”

Get Troup Reading distributed the literacy materials to four venues where summer camps were taking place in the county: Communities in Schools, the Boys and Girl Club of West Georgia, Griggs Recreation Center and Camp Viola.

As the name suggests, the point of the program was to expand children’s minds with literacy tools and encourage them to spend less time around screens, Myers said.

During the summer months, students often lose two to three months of reading skills they have gained during the school year, Myers said.

Experts call this learning loss “the summer slide” and say it can be a major reason why children read below grade level as they get older.

By ninth grade, Myers said, at least half of the achievement gap can be attributed to summer learning loss in the elementary school years.  Get Troup Reading partnered with Success By Six to implement a similar program in some of the childcare centers in town.

Gail Gordon, the Success By Six Coordinator at United Way of West Georgia, Inc., launched Summer Play on Wheels, a simple initiative in which she visited four learning centers in the county and passed out books, puzzles, art supplies and more to students.

“I tried to give activities that were simple or more elaborate,” Gordon explained

Gail was able to fund the program through the L4GA grant through the Troup County School System, she said. Now, Gordon is passing out bookbags to children in the learning center as a way to help them get ready for school.

As the school year approaches, Gordon and Myers both say they will continue to support reading initiatives.

Myers hopes to continue EXPAND into next summer, and has already received positive feedback and support from the programs involved to do so, she said.

“We’ve learned a lot because of the pandemic,” Myers said.

“Virtual learning is not going away, and computers are great, but we can’t just forget about face-to-face interactions and hands-on activities that promote literacy and language and communication. All of those build a literate mind, [with] and something like this EXPAND program, we can learn from this and learn what to do differently next year.”

Get Troup Reading exists to increase the impact that citizens and organizations in the community have on a child’s ability to read and write. 

The organization’s goal is to have 100% of the county’s third-graders reading on grade level.

This endeavor will involve working with all businesses, organizations, the school system, and all members of the community, according to its website.